Demography

, Volume 52, Issue 5, pp 1463–1485 | Cite as

Change in the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following the Birth of a Child

Article

Abstract

The share of births to cohabiting couples has increased dramatically in recent decades. How we evaluate the implications of these increases depends critically on change in the stability of cohabiting families. This study examines change over time in the stability of U.S. couples who have a child together, drawing on data from the 1995 and 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). We parse out the extent to which change in the stability of cohabiting and married families reflects change in couples’ behavior versus shifts in the characteristics of those who cohabit, carefully accounting for trajectories of cohabitation and marriage around the couple’s first birth. Multivariate event history models provide evidence of a weakening association between cohabitation and instability given that marriage occurs at some point before or after the couple’s first birth. The more recent data show statistically indistinguishable separation risks for couples who have a birth in marriage without ever cohabiting, those who cohabit and then have a birth in marriage, and those who have a birth in cohabitation and then marry. Cohabiting unions with children are significantly less stable when de-coupled from marriage, although the parents in this group also differ most from others on observed (and likely, unobserved) characteristics.

Keywords

Marriage Cohabitation Nonmarital childbearing Union dissolution Family stability 

References

  1. Abma, J. C., Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Peterson, L. S., & Piccinino, L. J. (1997). Fertility, family planning, and women’s health: New data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (Vital and Health Statistics Series 23, No. 19). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_019.pdf
  2. Bumpass, L., & Lu, H.-H. (2000). Trends in cohabitation and implications for children’s family contexts in the United States. Population Studies, 54, 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carlson, M. J., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2006). The prevalence and correlates of multipartnered fertility among urban U.S. parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 718–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlson, M., McLanahan, S., & England, P. (2004). Union formation in fragile families. Demography, 41, 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cavanagh, S. E., & Huston, A. C. (2006). Family instability and children’s early problem behavior. Social Forces, 85, 551–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cherlin, A. J. (2004). The deinstitutionalization of American marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 848–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cherlin, A. J. (2009). The marriage-go-round: The state of marriage and the family in America today. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, J., & Manning, W. (2010). The relationship context of premarital serial cohabitation. Social Science Research, 39, 766–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Craigie, T. A., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Waldfogel, J. (2010). Family structure, stability, and early child health and development (Working paper). Princeton, NJ, and New York, NY: Princeton University and Columbia University.Google Scholar
  10. Edin, K., & Kefalas, M. (2005). Promises I can keep: Why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fomby, P., & Cherlin, A. J. (2007). Family instability and child well-being. American Sociological Review, 72, 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fomby, P., & Sennott, C. (2013). Family structure instability and mobility: The consequences for adolescents’ problem behavior. Social Science Research, 42, 181–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (1996). The future of marriage. American Demographics, 18(6), 34–37, 39–40.Google Scholar
  14. Gault, B., Reichlin, L., Reynolds, E., & Froehner, M. (2014). 4.8 million college students are raising children (Fact Sheet IWPR #C424). Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/student-parent-success-initiative/resources-publications/#lates%20publications
  15. Gibson‐Davis, C. M. (2009). Money, marriage, and children: Testing the financial expectations and family formation theory. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 146–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gibson‐Davis, C. M., Edin, K., & McLanahan, S. (2005). High hopes but even higher expectations: The retreat from marriage among low‐income couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1301–1312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goldrick-Rab, S., & Sorensen, K. (2010). Unmarried parents in college. Future of Children, 20(2), 179–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guzzo, K. B. (2014). Trends in cohabitation outcomes: Compositional changes and engagement among never-married young adults. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76, 826–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guzzo, K. B., & Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (2007a). Multipartnered fertility among American men. Demography, 44, 583–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Guzzo, K. B., & Furstenberg, F. F., Jr. (2007b). Multipartnered fertility among young women with a nonmarital first birth: Prevalence and risk factors. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39, 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guzzo, K. B., & Hayford, S. R. (2012). Unintended fertility and the stability of coresidential relationships. Social Science Research, 41, 1138–1151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hayford, S. R., & Morgan, S. P. (2008). The quality of retrospective data on cohabitation. Demography, 45, 129–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kennedy, S., & Bumpass, L. L. (2008). Cohabitation and children’s living arrangements: New estimates from the United States. Demographic Research, 19(article 47), 1663–1692. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2008.19.47 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kennedy, S., & Bumpass, L. L. (2011, March). Cohabitation and trends in the structure and stability of children’s family lives. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  25. Kennedy, S., & Ruggles, S. (2013). Breaking up is hard to count: The rise of divorce and cohabitation instability in the United States (MPC Working Papers No. 2013–01). Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  26. Kiernan, K. (2000). European perspectives on union formation. In L. Waite, C. Bachrach, M. Hindin, E. Thomson, & A. Thornton (Eds.), Ties that bind: Perspectives on marriage and cohabitation (pp. 40–58). Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.Google Scholar
  27. Lepkowski, J. M., Mosher, W. D., Davis, K. E., Groves, R. M., & Van Hoewyk, J. (2010). The 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth: Sample design and analysis of a continuous survey (Vital and Health Statistics Series 2, No. 150). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  28. Lichter, D. T. (2012). Childbearing among cohabiting women: Race, pregnancy, and union transitions. In A. Booth, S. L. Brown, N. Landale, W. D. Manning, & S. M. McHale (Eds.), Early adulthood in a family context (pp. 209–219). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lichter, D. T., & Qian, Z. (2008). Serial cohabitation and the marital life course. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 861–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lichter, D. T., Qian, Z., & Mellott, L. M. (2006). Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women. Demography, 43, 223–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lichter, D. T., Turner, R. N., & Sassler, S. (2010). National estimates of the rise in serial cohabitation. Social Science Research, 39, 754–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Magnuson, K., & Berger, L. M. (2009). Family structure states and transitions: Associations with children’s well-being during middle childhood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 575–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manlove, J., Wildsmith, E., Ikramullah, E., Ryan, S., Holcombe, E., Scott, M., & Peterson, K. (2012). Union transitions following the birth of a child to cohabiting parents. Population Research and Policy Review, 31, 361–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Manning, W. D., Brown, S. L., & Stykes, J. B. (2014). Family complexity among children in the United States. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 654, 48–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Manning, W. D., & Cohen, J. A. (2012). Premarital cohabitation and marital dissolution: An examination of recent marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 377–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2005). Measuring and modeling cohabitation: New perspectives from qualitative data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 989–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Manning, W. D., Smock, P. J., & Majumdar, D. (2004). The relative stability of cohabiting and marital unions for children. Population Research and Policy Review, 23, 135–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Ventura, S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., Wilson, E. C., & Mathews, T. J. (2012). Births: Final data for 2010 (National Vital Statistics Reports Vol. 61, No. 1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf
  39. Martin, S. P. (2006). Trends in marital dissolution by women’s education in the United States. Demographic Research, 15(article 20), 537–560. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2006.15.20 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Martin, T. C., & Bumpass, L. L. (1989). Recent trends in marital disruption. Demography, 26, 37–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martinez, G., Daniels, K., & Chandra, A. (2012). Fertility of men and women aged 15–44 years in the United States: National Survey of Family Growth, 2006–2010 (National Health Statistics Reports Vol. 12, No. 51). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr051.pdf
  42. McLanahan, S. (2004). Diverging destinies: How children fare under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41, 607–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). (2011). 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth user’s guide. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nsfg/NSFG_2006-2010_UserGuide_MainText.pdf#General
  44. Osborne, C., Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2007). Married and cohabiting parents’ relationship stability: A focus on race and ethnicity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1345–1366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Perelli-Harris, B., Kreyenfeld, M., Sigle-Rushton, W., Keizer, R., Lappegård, T., Jasilioniene, A., & Di Giulio, P. (2012). Changes in union status during the transition to parenthood in eleven European countries, 1970s to early 2000s. Population Studies, 66, 167–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Perelli‐Harris, B., Sigle‐Rushton, W., Kreyenfeld, M., Lappegård, T., Keizer, R., & Berghammer, C. (2010). The educational gradient of childbearing within cohabitation in Europe. Population and Development Review, 36, 775–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Phillips, J. A., & Sweeney, M. M. (2006). Can differential exposure to risk factors explain recent racial and ethnic variation in marital disruption? Social Science Research, 35, 409–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rackin, H., & Gibson‐Davis, C. M. (2012). The role of pre‐and postconception relationships for first‐time parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 526–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Raley, R. K. (2001). Increasing fertility in cohabiting unions: Evidence for the second demographic transition in the United States? Demography, 38, 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Raley, R. K., & Bumpass, L. L. (2003). The topography of the divorce plateau: Levels and trends in union stability in the United States after 1980. Demographic Research, 8(article 8), 245–260. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2003.8.8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raley, K. R., & Wildsmith, E. (2004). Cohabitation and children’s family instability. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 210–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reed, J. M. (2006). Not crossing the “extra line”: How cohabitors with children view their unions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 1117–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Reinhold, S. (2010). Reassessing the link between premarital cohabitation and marital instability. Demography, 47, 719–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Smock, P. J., Manning, W. D., & Porter, M. (2005). “Everything’s there except money”: How money shapes decisions to marry among cohabitors. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 680–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sweeney, M. M. (2010). Remarriage and stepfamilies: Strategic sites for family scholarship in the 21st century. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 667–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tach, L., & Eads, A. (2015). Trends in the economic consequences of marital and cohabitation dissolution in the United States. Demography, 52, 401–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tach, L., & Edin, K. (2013). The compositional and institutional sources of union dissolution for married and unmarried parents in the United States. Demography, 50, 1789–1818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tach, L., Mincy, R., & Edin, K. (2010). Parenting as a “package deal”: Relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents. Demography, 47, 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tavares, L. P., & Aassve, A. (2013). Psychological distress of marital and cohabitation breakups. Social Science Research, 42, 1599–1611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Teachman, J. (2002). Stability across cohorts in divorce risk factors. Demography, 39, 331–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Teachman, J. (2003). Premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and the risk of subsequent marital dissolution among women. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 444–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thomson, E., Lappegård, T., Carlson, M., Evans, A., & Gray, E. (2014). Childbearing across partnerships in Australia, the United States, Norway, and Sweden. Demography, 51, 485–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Van de Kaa, D. J. (1987). Europe’s second demographic transition. Population Bulletin, 42(1), 1–59.Google Scholar
  65. Waller, M. R. (2001). High hopes: Unwed parents’ expectations about marriage. Children and Youth Services Review, 23, 457–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wu, L. L. (1996). Effects of family instability, income, and income instability on the risk of a premarital birth. American Sociological Review, 61, 386–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wu, L. L., & Martinson, B. C. (1993). Family structure and the risk of a premarital birth. American Sociological Review, 58, 210–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wu, L. L., & Musick, K. (2008). Stability of marital and cohabiting unions following a first birth. Population Research and Policy Review, 27, 713–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Policy Analysis and ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Cornell Population CenterCornell UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Ford School of Public PolicyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations